Grants awarded

Neo-Kantianism as an alternative conceptual basis for psychiatry


Dr (Matthew) Sam Fellowes

Lancaster University

United Kingdom

Empirical research has not been able to find specific causes for many mental disorders. Instead, causal heterogeneity has been uncovered within the domain of psychiatry. This has led to a crisis of confidence concerning psychiatric diagnoses. 

I will develop a new account of what makes a psychiatric diagnosis legitimate, drawing on an approach in the philosophy of science called ‘neo-Kantianism’. This approach emphasises the role played by theories and values when scientists model the world. A legitimate psychiatric diagnosis does not need to have a specific underlying cause with this new approach and this can alleviate the concerns over the validity of psychiatric diagnoses. 

I will use the history of autism to look at alternative theories and values to assess whether psychiatry could improve the theories and values it employs.